Race Recap – Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Halloween Half Marathon

Race Recap – Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Halloween Half Marathon

The last time I ran the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in LA was three years ago, when I had just moved to LA. I was excited to have it be my first run in my new home, and a half marathon at that. It was before my marathon racing days…my how time flies, haha.

Making my rounds at the expo like a pro :P
Making my rounds at the expo like a pro 😛

But with time, I’ve also become more jaded with the whole expo/lead-up to race day. It’s like everything is such a routine, with nothing new to expect…to be honest, going to expos for packet pick-up seems more like a chore for me now than an exciting thing to do. I even got in a long run before stepping into this expo because of my marathon training schedule. This race was just another opportunity to run and get some miles in while continuing on my Route 66 Marathon journey—which happens to be in less than two days upon publishing this post!!

Needless to say, I was in and out of the convention center within a half hour. I made plans to spend the rest of the day with E back in my neighborhood. We met up near Venice and Figueroa, and hopped on a bus to take us to Abbot Kinney.

The Tasting Kitchen, Venice
The Tasting Kitchen, Venice

We made our way through the crowds of tourists and Lululemon-wearing locals to get to The Tasting Kitchen, where we came across even more crowds of pretentious folk socializing over brunch. Would our grad student salaries get us much here? LOL!

We were eventually seated near the back, in the middle of two other groups: one couple and to our left, another pair of friends.

The menu was tricky to figure out. When our waiter came by, I just ended up asking what were the vegetarian options on their menu, since I couldn’t figure it out. He recommended the burrata dish, so I just agreed to get that, along with a plain biscuit. E got a sandwich that had a really long description and name, as well as a cream cheese and chive biscuit.

Our waiter walked away in a jiffy as soon as he got our orders, but came back pretty quickly to notify E of some unfortunate news: they had run out of cream cheese and chive biscuits. E was just like…”uhh, can I just get a plain biscuit?” and the “problem” was solved? Haha, at least the waiter offered to comp her biscuit.

Burrata with butternut squash, chopped hazelnuts, balsamic sauce
Burrata with butternut squash, chopped hazelnuts, balsamic sauce

When our orders came, I justified the price I was paying for the meal with the fact that the presentation was perfectly on point. Roasted butternut squash slices topped with bubbly burrata and chopped hazelnuts, coated with a balsamic sauce. Was I really in Venice, or some upscale restaurant in New York owned by a chef fresh from taping a series of Top Chef?

The biscuit was super flaky and he flavor was quite enhanced by the butter and salt. A great vehicle for mopping up the leftover balsamic sauce.

Buttery, flaky biscuit
Buttery, flaky biscuit

After lunch, we tried to forget how much money E and I spent on a mid-day meal and walked into a few shops along Abbot Kinney. We then walked towards the Venice Canals, and then ended up at the beach. We ended up walking a TON but the walk was made eventful with a bunch of gossiping and laughing. My legs were shot, but I was able to get home by 4 and spent the rest of the evening rolling out my legs and resting as much as possible before race day.

Fun day by the water <3
Fun day by the water <3

The next morning, I woke up around 4am. I had a couple minutes to roll out my muscles more, and wore some knee-highs to help with some form of compression (even if it was a placebo effect, it seemed to work, haha). I also remembered to take some ibuprofen the night before, and that seemed to help attenuate the soreness from yesterday’s events.

Got a free KT Taping at the expo which seemed to help! Also rolled out my calves and wore some knee high socks to the race :)
Got a free KT Taping at the expo which seemed to help! Also rolled out my calves and wore some knee high socks to the race 🙂

I didn’t have to spend money on a ride share service (yes!) since the Metro conveniently had trains running early Sunday morning with a stop close to the race start. I soon learned that other runners had the same idea when I saw them begin to board as we got closer and closer to DTLA.

As soon as I got to the start, I walked straight over to bag check, and luckily found some free snack bars to munch on as pre-race fuel. I also tried to keep warm by one of the heat lamps that a local restaurant in LA Live had set out, and waited until it was time to find my place at the start.

Morning, pre-race
Morning, pre-race

13.1 miles. It’s PR time…let’s do this!

When we were set to take off, I was able to gauge my pace so that I didn’t start off too fast unlike how I paced myself in the beginning at the Dodger’s 10k. I think I was a little ahead of the 1:45 pacer, but the pack eventually caught up to me at around mile 2.5. I stuck close to him, even though O felt like I was putting in a slightly harder effort for so early in the race.

Still, I felt good, my legs still felt fresh, and my shins were fine. Unfortunately, I began to lag at around mile 6, when we hit a steep hill in downtown approaching Koreatown. At that point, I was like, okay, I’ll just be a few minutes off, but maybe I can still PR.

I was able to keep my pace within 8:15-8:20/mi, even with water breaks. There were a ton of rolling hills between DTLA and Koreatown, all along Wilshire. At first, the hills seemed intimidating and never-ending—even though I was well-accustomed to the area and they weren’t really a surprise—but I felt strong overall and I was able to attack the upcoming hills with a newfound energy.

Race Finish!
Race Finish!

I was able to speed up towards the finish, and it seemed like my fatigue happily vanished. I finished the (technically) 13.3 mi course at a pace of 8:18/mi. Even though this course seemed less painful than the one I ran three years ago, I wouldn’t call this year’s course a fantastic change. I still prefer it to the one I ran in the past though.

The weather conditions were perfect: not too hot, not too cold. Transportation was easy to manage, the race loot was decent, and the medal had a snazzy design.

Race medal and shirt
Race medal and shirt

I didn’t PR, but I was happy with my outcome given the shin and calf soreness I was feeling leading up to the race. I also saw it as a great warm-up/race condition-simulating run for marathon prep. We’ll see how much it functioned as the latter come marathon race day this Sunday!

The Tasting Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back Into the Swing of Things

Back Into the Swing of Things

I came back from Spain on a Thursday, but was heavily jet-lagged for a week. My mood and emotions were all over the place, and my sleep schedule definitely took a beating. I remember wanting to take a nap at 5pm on the following Sunday, only to wake up in my pitch dark room and glancing at my phone to see that it was midnight…needless to say, getting back to my routine was a challenge, but I was able to succeed and feel somewhat like myself by the time the next weekend rolled around.

Friday Night Cat-Stalking. That's one way to get used to being back in SaMo lol
Friday Night Cat-Stalking. That’s one way to get used to being back in SaMo lol

My sister was free to meet me on a Saturday, and so we made plans to head to Hollywood and check out the Museum of Broken Relationships. A good excuse to get out of my West LA bubble, and make it to the north central part of the city for once!

Since we were in the area on a Saturday afternoon, it was impossible to escape tourist traffic. We soon found the museum unassumingly positioned at the corner of Hollywood and McCadden. It was actually much smaller than we expected…

Museum of BR
Museum of BR

It was cute though. And surprisingly, there were a ton of couples walking about…weird, haha!

The “Wedding Dress in a Jar” and the minuscule “pay attention to me” note caught my eye…

Wedding Dress in a Jar // "pay attention to me"
Wedding Dress in a Jar // “pay attention to me”

There were also some zany and crazy displays of random objects, paired with some heart-breaking stories as well. Each item was paired with a description of who donated it, when the relationship ended, and the meaning of the item.

The mini love notes were bittersweet. Not sure about that pinata tho...
The mini love notes were bittersweet. Not sure about that pinata tho…

There was a second story to the museum, where we saw this weird sculpture (?), but other than that, the displays were limited:

Not sure about the meaning of this...
Not sure about the meaning of this…

So we were out in about an hour. Our next stop was a late lunch/early dinner at Pink Taco on Sunset. After raving to my sister about it (at least based on the experience I had at Century City years ago before that location closed), she was dying to check it out too.

Finding parking was a nightmare, but we found a street parking in a nearby neighborhood and walked over.

We made it just in time for happy hour, and made ourselves comfy among the already-settled crowds of “basic” folk, haha.

Pink Taco
Pink Taco

We devoured the complimentary chips and salsa as soon as the waiter brought them over.

Lesss eat!
Lesss eat!

I already knew I wanted nachos, especially since they were cheap off the Happy Hour menu. The sis went for the tacos, and was not disappointed.

The nachos were just as magical as I remember them being. The cheese wasn’t queso-like, but there was so much guac and jalapeno peppers so it balanced out in the end.

OMG NACHOS. "Pink Taco "Mini" Nachos. Only way this happy hour $8 plate could have been better is if the cheese had been vegan 😍 but considering my voracious appetite yesterday afternoon, this did just fine 😊👌🏽"
OMG NACHOS. “Pink Taco “Mini” Nachos. Only way this happy hour $8 plate could have been better is if the cheese had been vegan 😍 but considering my voracious appetite yesterday afternoon, this did just fine 😊👌🏽

Our portions were just right, but when my sis suggested we get dessert close to my place before she headed home, I agreed!

So after getting through traffic, we drove down Santa Monica Blvd. until we got to Downtown SaMo. I suggested we check out Creams & Dreams.

Creams & Dreams
Creams & Dreams

I’m not sure why C&D was on my foodie list to begin with, since after stepping inside, nothing struck me as it being unique in any way. There are a number of liquid nitrogen ice cream shops now in So Cal, so I’m not sure why I had bookmarked this place…

Regardless, they had Speculoos and Nutella ice cream, so I caved and went for that (despite their offering of avocado or creamed corn)!

"Yes, there were unique-sounding liquid nitrogen ice cream flavors like avocado 🥑 and creamed corn 🌽, but my mind is pretty much made up whenever Speculoos or Nutella is concerned!"
Yes, there were unique-sounding liquid nitrogen ice cream flavors like avocado 🥑 and creamed corn 🌽, but my mind is pretty much made up whenever Speculoos or Nutella is concerned!

My sis stayed to true to her main love of chocolate, and topped it with fruity pebbles.

No surprise with her, always getting chocolate :P
No surprise with her, always getting chocolate 😛

We walked back to the car with ice cream in hand, feeling sticky from the ocean breeze. This particular weekend helped me get back into the swing of things, and ready to take on October!

Pink Taco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Cold Rolled Concoction

A Cold Rolled Concoction

When I first saw images of Thai ice cream rolls pop up on the ‘gram, I was mesmerized—how on earth could ice cream be molded into such compact rolls, pressed together, and then decorated to a point that they looked too ornate to eat? 

Seriously. Mouth-watering.
Seriously. Mouth-watering.
 
I had been dying to try the creation, but at the time, all of the ice cream locations that made this exquisite treat were located in the OC, and I wasn’t heading down there as frequently as I do now that my sister’s in the area. 
 
I did get a chance to try a cookie-butter themed cup of the stuff at the OC Night Market a few months ago, thanks to the Blue Nova food truck. And while I complained in my recap post of the event that it took forever and a day for the cup to be prepared, I realized how much effort is actually required when I paid a visit to a new,  local-to-me ice cream shop that is crafting up this frozen treat for the denizens of LA. 
 
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
 
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co. has only been open for a handful of weeks, but by the way their shop on Melrose looks, you’d think they’ve been in the business for ages. 
 
At work whipping up hand-crafted frozen creations!
At work whipping up hand-crafted frozen creations!
 
I stopped by on a slightly cool Saturday afternoon for LA, and was able to meet with one of the four shop owners, Tim. He was eager to share the history of Cold Rolled, and it was obvious to me that he had a passion and the expertise for all things ice cream. 
 
Some highlights of the shop included:
 
~ A variety of ice cream base options, including all-organic, vegan and non-dairy choices.
~ A number of opportunities to mix and match ice cream flavors and toppings, since Cold Rolled offers 20 flavors and 50+ toppings. 
~The emphasis on making the ice cream-making process an interactive one with the customer: each order is made fresh, and the customer’s name is even spelled on the ice cream before rolling.
~The mural walls decorating the interior of the shop, painted by local street artist Jonathan Cirlin
 
After speaking with Tim outside the shop, he asked if I’d like to try some ice cream and I was quick to respond absolutely! 
 
There were separate rolling stations positioned behind a glass counter, with staff members rolling out tailored creations for customers right before their eyes. 
 
I decided to go with the Matcha Green Tea Premium Creation, which combined a matcha green tea base, red bean paste, and toppings like mochi and green tea Pocky. 
 
The Premium Creations portion of the menu
The Premium Creations portion of the menu

When one of the staff members assigned to making my cup was ready, he motioned for me to come close to the counter so I could watch ice cream magic happen right before my eyes.

It started off with a mash of green ice cream, which was then pummeled back and forth. The clashing of stainless steel tools is a common sound around these parts, haha!

Step 1
Step 1

Next, the ice cream “puree” was smoothed out , and allowed to freeze flat on the circular metal tray.

Step 2
Step 2

Before rolling out the frozen rectangle into mini rolls, my name was spelled out with condensed milk, making it a more interactive experience.

Step 3
Step 3

Each roll was placed tightly in a circular arrangement inside a cup, and topped with condensed milk and toppings.

TOPpin' it off
TOPpin’ it off

I then allowed my cup a few minutes in the spotlight before devouring its contents in mere seconds.

Before it was all gone...
Before it was all gone…

The rolls were frozen firm, and had a mild green tea flavor. I have to be honest and say I was focused on getting to all the mochi pieces first, but after that was taken care of, I was able to devote my attention to the part of the frozen creation that required the most effort. Overall, it was the perfect treat for a slightly cool but sunny Saturday afternoon in LA.

Cold Rolled is definitely a sweet addition to Melrose Ave., and I’m certainly glad I don’t have to make the trek down to OC (at least) every time I have a craving for ice cream rolls!

Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.


Have you ever tried Thai ice cream rolls?

OC Night Market

OC Night Market

One of the things I’ve been meaning to do since moving to LA is go to at least one 626 Night Market—basically a food truck/food stall-heavy festival featuring vendors that sell unique foodie creations.

Many of the vendors also specialize in Asian-themed food items, and finding snacks with matcha or ube is a recurring theme.

Since my sister’s now officially living in the OC, I thought it would be a good idea to attend the OC Night Market (the OC spin-off of 626 Night Market) together.

OC Night Market
OC Night Market

It was taking the place the last weekend in August, and I used it as an opportunity to head down to the OC and spend the weekend with the sis. So after popping into lab on that Saturday morning, I took the Metrolink down to Irvine, where my sister met me mid-afternoon.

From there, we stopped for a tea break before heading to the venue. The festival was being held in Costa Mesa, just like how VegFest was last year.

We had no issues getting in, except we were bothered by the fact that we had to pay for parking AND entering the night market. We were also a part of the “early” crowd, entering closer to 5pm vs. 8pm, haha!

Walking around
Walking around

Before getting to the food stalls and trucks, we passed through a hangar-like structure that sheltered several art displays and items for sale by art vendors.

Vendors.
Vendors.

Since there were many food stalls to check out, we walked around the perimeter before deciding what to get. Our first choices were both savory, and could thwart any salt craving.

My sister picked up a jalapeno grilled cheese, with cream cheese.

Yum, grilled cheese!
Yum, grilled cheese!

I, on the other hand, was quite intrigued by the potato swirl. I noticed so many other patrons carrying the carb-wrapped stick, and then after devouring the edible portion, waving the stick around like a spear. My sis and I had to dart around these absent-minded potato consumers if we wanted to live,  haha!

Not afraid to stab you with dis carb.
Not afraid to stab you with dis carb.

I got my potato swirl seasoned with cajun, and could immediately see why it was so popular with the crowd. The potato discs were fun to peel, and there was just enough seasoning that no extra sauce was needed.

After some more walking around, and glancing at some of the art displays, we made a second round for dessert. I spotted the Blue Nova truck, and immediately noticed their Thai ice cream roll menu.

Blue Nova Truck
Blue Nova Truck

The line didn’t seem too long, but then again, I didn’t know how long it would take to make a spectacular-looking cup of Thai ice cream rolls.

I chose to get the Spectacular Speculoos flavor, and spent the next twenty minutes hovering near the side of the truck waiting for my ticket number to be called.

Was it worth the wait? According to appearances…maybe:

YUM!
YUM!

According to taste? Not too bad! The ice cream itself was bland and didn’t carry a lot of flavor (it was supposedly speculoos-flavored, but at least it was dusted with cinnamon, topped with mochi, and held two Biscoff cookies and a marshmallow I passed on because of gelatin).

Since we arrived early, we still had a ton of time to kill if we were planning on staying till 10pm. The entertainment acts weren’t even starting until 7, and it was barely 6 when we completed our two rounds of the venue!

We decided that we would probably have more fun back at my sister’s place—she suggested that we get some cupcakes-in-a-jar and savor them while watching the sun set. I couldn’t think of a more perfect idea!

Baked Dessert Bar
Baked Dessert Bar

Baked Dessert Bar had a wonderful assortment to choose from, and I chose the Cookie Monster while my sis chose the most chocolate-on-chocolate flavor she could find. Once we got back to her place in Mission Viejo, we settled ourselves in some seats in the backyard and watched the sun set in all its glory.

Mission Viejo Sunset
Mission Viejo Sunset

The cupcakes were not bad either—the cake wasn’t too dry, but of course I was a fan of the frosting, and the frosting-to-cake ratio was perfect.

My sis and I spent the rest of the evening chatting and laughing, and eventually we went inside to get some shut eye since she would be driving me back to LA the next morning.

Before heading back in the morning, I went out for a mid-distance run while my sis promised to make a quick breakfast for both of us. I was so awestruck by the beauty of Mission Viejo that I forgot that the beauty I was witnessing was 90% hills. Which meant my run was ready to kill me.

I survived, but not without feeling it in my calves. At least my sister’s scrambled eggs came to my grumbling stomach’s rescue.

We did stop for coffee, and then headed to my campus to take care of a number of things in lab. I had to stay overnight that night due to the next day being a time-sensitive experiment day, so having my sister help with preparations and other routine tasks was something I was grateful for!

We worked for four solid hours non-stop, and were hungry enough by the end of it to immediately head out for lunch. Burgers and fries sounded perfect, and after mentioning Shake Shack to the sis, we made a direct drive to the Century City location.

Century City Shake Shack
Century City Shake Shack

It was the first time trying SS out for the both of us, and our default vegetarian option for a burger was the Shroom Burger. We had no complaints though, since the mushroom patty was supposedly stuffed with warm cheese.

For my side, I got the cheese fries while my sis got a chocolate shake. We found seating outside, and didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive.

SHAKE SHACK ORDER!
SHAKE SHACK ORDER!

And everything tasted as good as it looked. The patty was crisp, bread buns soft, enough cheese to coat each fry…I was definitely forlorn when I finished my meal. It made me second guess the size of my fry order, haha!

Yum meal!
Yum meal!

My sis drove me back to campus so I could get ready for my overnight stay, while she headed back to Mission Viejo. Even though I was back to work hours before the rest of my collegues would be, at least I was happy with how well I spent the weekend!
 

Back in August…

Back in August…

Man, I have a TON of posts to catch up on! But if I procrastinate any longer, I proably won’t even remember enough about the pictures I have to write about them…better late than ever.

Also goes to show that being busy enough not to blog means that life things are picking up, and have me occupied in a good way. I have some big travel plans coming up in a few weeks (work-related, but still exciting!), and I’m looking forward to what that experience will bring.

In the meantime, I’ll reflect back on what I was doing in early August, right after my b-day celebrations and my sister’s arrival back in Cali. It was my last weekend with the car in my possession, but I didn’t have the desire to drive out too far…

Actually, there was a lot going on locally. The USC Village was something that was under construction for a long time now, near the downtown area. Since it’s grand opening was scheduled for mid-August to coincide with move-in day, some of the stores and restaurants had soft openings a week prior. One of the restaurants was CAVA…funny how I visited the Santa Monica location only days before!

CAVA, USC Village
CAVA, USC Village

For their soft opening, the CAVA at USC Village was giving away free food from 12-2pm! I stood in line with some of my labmates for almost 1.5 hours, but since I knew the kind of food we would be getting wasn’t some cheap meal, I had to begrudgingly admit that it was worth it.

CAVA Menu
CAVA Menu

Although…by the time we got inside and were able to place our orders, they had run out of flatbread. We all opted for grain bowls, and I had mine based with lentils, the spicy veggies and all of the other crisp veggie toppings. I think I opted for some lemon dressing this time around instead of the apricot sriracha, but it fit well with what ended up being a warm salad bowl.

Grain Bowl!
Grain Bowl!

I ate my late lunch with E before we continued on with our work day.

When Saturday rolled around, I first drove to Sprouts after a morning run to pick up a snack. I’ve been on a GoMacro bar kick lately (my latest bar obsession), and Sprouts carries their Everlasting Joy flavor, the proceeds of which go to help the homeless.

GoMacro Everlasting Joy
GoMacro Everlasting Joy

I love their chocolate chip/nut butter flavors, so this was an instant favorite of mine. I mean, coconut flakes added to either of those types of flavors can only make it better.

I worked in lab for some of the morning, and since E was also finishing up some stuff, we finished around noon and walked over to where I parked the car to drive off to lunch.

She suggested earlier in the week that we both share a Turkish Breakfast at Mama’s Secret, a cozy, Turkish establishment very close to Beverly Connection.

Anyone got $1,000 for breakfast??
Anyone got $1,000 for breakfast??

Maybe if we combined a good chunk of our monthly income, we could have split the $1,000 pancakes…but we weren’t feeling too rich that day, haha!

What we could afford vs. what we couldn't
What we could afford vs. what we couldn’t

Nah, the Turkish Breakfast and cheese-stuffed flatbread not only sounded affordable, but well-rounded and filling for two people.

The Turkish breakfast was served with an assortment of cheeses, veggies, turkey slices (that we left alone), and flatbread. The sauces/dips were filled in cups and included hummus, tahini, honey, jam, nutella, and a ricotta-looking cheese curd.

TURKISH BREAKFAST
TURKISH BREAKFAST

And of course we had some warm tea…

The cheese-stuffed flatbread was my favorite, even though it wasn’t part of the breakfast platter. It came out already cut out in small portions so it was easy to split.

One of the cheese-stuffed flatbreads they offered. I believe ours was spiced with parsley and basil.
One of the cheese-stuffed flatbreads they offered. I believe ours was spiced with parsley and basil.

I had no idea that these cheese-filled flatbreads were a staple of Turkish cuisine, but my friend confirmed this foodie fact. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of my new favorite dishes now!

E was meeting some other friends for a movie-in-the-park event (one that I actually went to myself for a friend’s birthday last year…) so I dropped her off before heading home. I felt tired enough to go to sleep early, but I did have a night dessert before turning in.

That Snickerdoodle Dough
That Snickerdoodle Dough

Nada Moo’s Snickerdoodle is cream was soft and creamy, but the lack of dough pieces was a huge disappointment and sub-par in comparison to So Delicious’ offering. Ah well, they tried…

What your current food obsession?

Have you ever had a Turkish breakfast?

Mama's Secret Bakery & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

4th of July What?

4th of July What?

For me, 4th of July weekend was non-existent. I was in lab every single day that weekend, two of which were spent as over-nighters due to the nature of the experiments I was running. It was exhausting, but I felt so productive and accomplished by the end of it…and when I saw co-workers walking in on July 5th looking super depressed, haha!

The weekend after, I still had to go into lab but lunch in downtown with E was a given. I had an eye appointment I had to attend to first, but after that, E and I walked into the depths of downtown—under the hot LA sub—looking for Two Boots Pizza. We were covered in sweat by the time we saw the small stand by an old-style theater and Urban Outfitters.

Two Boots, DTLA
Two Boots, DTLA

One thing that intrigued me about this place is how they have a lengthy line-up of some veggie/vegan pizza options! The green-bordered menu had E and I excited to dig into a late lunch.

♥

Despite the long list of pizza options, the guy behind the counter disappointed us by saying the only flavors available that day were displayed through the front window.

♥

In that case, we both ordered a slice of the Night Tripper. She got another spicy slice while I got the veggie-topped V for Vegan.

♥ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ♥
♥ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ♥

We sat at some stools next to the little stall and munched on our slices. The Night Tripper was indeed a spicy one with a soft layer of cheese and basil drizzle. V for Vegan was milder in comparison, but put artichoke hearts on anything and it just takes it to the next level.

After talking for a bit, we headed back to catch the train and from there I headed home. I stopped by Ralph’s to get a pint for the night—this time a new So Delicious flavor to try: Dark Chocolate Truffle.

♥

And…despite wanting to love it, the DCT cashew milk ice cream just wasn’t those flavors I fell in love with. Snickerdoodle, Salted Caramel Cluster, and Cookie Dough had me feeling differently, but I guess this flavor is perhaps best suited for a vegan who loves her chocolate!

On Sunday, I went out for a 14 mile run before heading to lab. Since San Diego, I’ve just been trying to maintain my weekly mileage, since I plan to start fall marathon training (back with a coach) in August. July seems to be the perfect month to be a little lax with training…since “slow” times and “sluggish efforts” can always be blamed on the heat 😉

After the run, I hurried to lab just to get my errands out of the way. With my sister out of the state for the next couple weeks, I’m car-sitting her automobile and so I was able to conveniently drive over to lab that morning. I finished up by early afternoon, and so E and I took the car out to Melrose to dine at Fratelli Cafe. Of course, we parked too soon at La Brea since E thought she knew where the restaurant was. We were off by a couple blocks, and so we literally ended up having a warm-up walk before eating, haha!

Fratelli on Melrose
Fratelli on Melrose

When we entered the restaurant, we could tell the place was a local favorite based on the crowds, but getting the attention of the wait staff proved to be difficult. We weren’t sure if we had to wait to be seated, or seat ourselves, but we eventually figured out that we order first and then find a place to sit. There weren’t enough menus at the front where we had to order, and so E and I waited awkwardly behind a group of three who had all three menus…

♥

When we did get our chance to order, I ordered the Huevos Rancheros off the breakfast menu while E went for a veggie sandwich and chips. There was no difference sitting inside versus outside since there was no evidence of an A/C, so we found a table outside.

It took a while for our food to arrive, and the dishes that passed us in the meantime were a real tease for our exhausted, overheated bodies. When our plates did come though, I took a moment to admire the layers of my brunch plate.

♥

I had a well-balanced, hearty plate in front of me, if I do say so myself…

"I've been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn't surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn't make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave 🔥🔥🔥 and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it's pitch black at 9pm 😱😂. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry 😅. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess 🤷🏽‍♀️ 😉 #PhDStudentLife"
“I’ve been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn’t surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn’t make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave 🔥🔥🔥 and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it’s pitch black at 9pm 😱😂. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry 😅. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess 🤷🏽‍♀️ 😉 #PhDStudentLife”

We finished our late lunch by 4pm, and while the sun was still high in the sky and we could have easily done something else thanks to the convenience of a car, we decided to call it a day since it was too hot. I dropped E off at home before doing some grocery shopping, and on the way, finally picked up a jar of Nuts’n More to try.

Nuts'n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread
Nuts’n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread

In comparison to D’s Naturals, I found that the oils mix much more evenly throughout the jar so that the bottom isn’t a flaky, dry paste. There were some tiny, crystallized sugar pieces in the mix too, but the cookie butter flavor was still detectable.

My 4th of July “holiday weekend” was something I missed out on, but I’d say I do a pretty decent job of finding the time to give myself a break, even if it doesn’t coincide with the rest of the world’s! It also helps to have a colleague/friend who pretty much lives at work just as much as you do. At this rate, with all of the places I drag her out to eat at, E will probably become just as much of a foodie as I am!

Did you have a long 4th of July holiday weekend, or just a day or two off?

Fratelli Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Coming Home

Coming Home

We had quite the adventure coming home…

We left Paris on a quiet, warm Friday morning and braced ourselves for the journey back to Gare du Nord. Of course, we encountered a large mob of people entering our train car when we got to the station right before, but we didn’t have any incidents like the one at the beginning of our trip, fortunately.

Getting through security and border patrol was a pain, only because the people managing the queues were completely unorganized. We would have missed our train back to London for sure if it had not been for a kind woman allowing us to cut in front of her.

The train ride back was uneventful, and the extra time we planned to have in London leisurely getting to the airport was chopped away since our train was delayed by 30 minutes…

We managed to make our flight, but by the time we reached our gate, we were all pretty snappy with each other and hanger was all too real. We flew with Norwegian Air back to LA, and were surprised by how cool and overcast the weather was in LA. Compared to the sunny, hot weather we had experienced over the past two weeks, it was a great change.

Before heading back to my place, we all went out for dinner. Urban Plates in Marina del Rey was close enough to the airport and sounded appetizing enough for our weary, hungry traveling bodies.

♥

The menu and set-up was pretty confusing I must admit. It was like they offered so many sides that you could literally ask for a plate of sides and that “meal” was on the menu. The salads seemed the least intimidating, but also pretty descriptive and delicious-sounding.

♥

I went with the Local Beet Salad, which came with a colorful spread of beets, and a mized salad topped with soft cheese and a slice of crusty bread.

♥

My Dad and sister split a veggie sandwich that came with chips, and got asparagus and mac and cheese as sides.

♥

I sampled some of the chips, but honestly, the salad was flavorful and filling enough. My only wish was that there had been more beets…especially the yellow ones!

After dinner, we all got back to my place, unpacked, and went to bed soon after. My Dad was leaving back fro Oklahoma in the morning while my sister and I were heading to San Diego for my marathon there. The three of us shared a bagel breakfast at Panera before departing ways, and from there, my sister and I were off to the SD Convention Center.

♥

It’s interesting how I was not too enthusiastic about sticking around after getting my bib this time around. The set-up of the race expo just seemed repetitive to me, and I found myself quickly getting bored. We didn’t leave without getting whatever samples we could though.

Honey Stinger and Daiya had awesome set-ups!
Honey Stinger and Daiya had awesome set-ups!

What I did manage to gather wasn’t too bad, but I’ve done way better at gathering larger collections previous races.

♥

My sister and I were still jet-lagged (and I wasn’t sure how bad it would affect me in regards to the race…) so we mostly napped for the rest of the afternoon before heading out to an early dinner at the Native Foods location of Balboa Park!

Native Foods, Balboa Park
Native Foods, Balboa Park

I had a chat with my running coach in the parking lot before we went inside. Once we were at the counter, I ordered my tried-and-true favorite Native Nachos. My sister got her classic favorite, the Soul Bowl.

♥

We were too tired to talk, but hungry enough to eat. I demolished my plate of nachos, and possibly even felt too full. I didn’t regret my choice though, since I consider this dish the epitome of fast casual vegan cooking.

♥

We retreated back to our Airbnb right after, and caught up on the SNL episodes we missed while we were away. I easily fell asleep around 8pm, which was perfect since I planned to catch an Uber around 4:30am to take me to the race start. It seemed like so many things were happening at once—returning from a two-week trip, only to run a marathon right after—but I couldn’t imagine it being any other way. I was mentally ready to run, but physically? I would see soon enough…

Urban Plates Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pending Travel

Pending Travel

This post was written weeks ago, but with all the traveling I’ve been doing and no time to sit down and post, here it finally is with no edits to verb tense, haha!

These past two weeks have been on hyperdrive! Even my efforts in running seemed to be sub-par in comparison to my performance in previous weeks. Stress has been subconsciously hitting me I guess!

I’ve been scrambling putting together stuff at work, as well as prepping for two weeks of international travel. I haven’t packed yet (no surprise) but I do have a list going. Things are going to be coming back-to-back with no pause in between—sister’s graduation, traveling in Europe, my marathon in San Diego—this time off seems to be like it’s a lot more work than intended.

Salted Caramel Cluster...it blew me away in a good way. A mild, creamy base with a super salty caramel swirl, rich chocolate chunks and CASHEW pieces. So many more @so_delicious flavors to try 😩 it may take me forever but it should be a fun quest to complete 😋 #WhereIsMySponsorship #JkJk #Sorta 😉
Salted Caramel Cluster…it blew me away in a good way. A mild, creamy base with a super salty caramel swirl, rich chocolate chunks and CASHEW pieces. So many more @so_delicious flavors to try 😩 it may take me forever but it should be a fun quest to complete 😋 #WhereIsMySponsorship #JkJk #Sorta 😉

But hopefully the payoff is good. I’m anxious-excited about seeing my cousin, whom I haven’t seen in 17 years, and her 13 and 9 year old daughters I haven’t met yet, at all!

I went to the Westfield mall in Culver City last weekend with E to shop for said daughters. My cousin enlightened me on what they would really like as gifts and I was ready to have fun with it. I bought the younger one two cute dresses from Old Navy and The Children’s Place. I remember my wardrobe was literally all TCP from ages 7-10, and I was taller-than-average for my age lol.

Gifts!
I come with gifts!

For the older daughter, I got two pieces from Hollister…hard to believe (or is it?) that the brand is still popular among teens. Man, I remember feeling SO much unspoken peer pressure to wear Hollister and Abercrombie, haha.

After buying some chocolates from Target, and a cookie butter jar from Trader Joe’s (which I’m hoping they’ll love since Trader Joe’s isn’t available in Wales!), E and I decided to take a lunch break at the happening food court.

I spotted Bibigo down the walkway, and headed towards it while E went next door to Burger King.

Bibigo, Westfield Culver City
Bibigo, Westfield Culver City

A nice, warm veggie bowl with cool toppings sounded so appetizing at the time. So for my base, I had a bowl with salad greens. On top of that went pickled veggies like onions and slaw, and of course kimchi.

Side of wontons, warm tofu, and fres, cold veggies!
Side of wontons, warm tofu, and fres, cold veggies!

To finish it off, warm tofu cubes added a nice touch along with seaweed flakes. Even a guy who was behind me in line commented on how good it looked, haha.

A fantastic creation.
A fantastic creation.

The bowl was just filling enough to get my energy spent from shopping back up, and to power me to get back home. E and I had a fun bus ride back to the train station, and from there I traveled my usual commute home.

Couldn't resist snapping this pic of my city <3
Couldn’t resist snapping this pic of my city <3

It was too late to take a nap when I got home, but I tried to turn in early enough so that I could catch up on some sleep. At least it was a productive day overall though!

Do you like planning for trips?

On the Horizon

On the Horizon

It’s hard to believe that in about two weeks, I’ll be walking, running, and skipping (maybe? haha!) across Europe. The plan is to start in Iceland, fly across the pond to the UK, and then end the journey in Paris. It’ll be quite a way to celebrate my sister’s upcoming graduation from her undergraduate university!

pizza-studio
Hello Pizza Studio!

But what I’m most excited for is her move this fall to Irvine. Yes, she’ll be about 60 min away from me by car, and I could not be more excited. We may not be moving in together right away, but I foresee a bunch of weekend adventures with her, and hopefully we’ll be able to find a place to live together when she gets more settled in!

interior
Pizza Studio, South Los Angeles

In the meantime, work has been keeping me busy, and weekends in lab have become commonplace again. Obviously all that work stirs up an appetite, and pizza has been my carb craving as of late.

I’ve finally been getting on board with the popularity behind the whole make-your-own-pizza trend. First it was Blaze, and now I got around to trying out Pizza Studio.

I could have gotten creative and really asked to make up my own combo—perhaps even have it all on a spicy pizza crust—but one of the ready-made combos, Truffled Mushroom, seemed to sound quite appetizing.

truffled-mushroom
The Truffled Mushroom

This magical combo was composed of a rosemary herb crust, garlic alfredo, freshly grated mozzarella, truffle roasted mushrooms, fresh parmesan, and baby spinach. It came out soooo warm and with the cheese all melty, I had to be incredibly careful when picking up the slices because it was hot to the touch.

mushroompool
All those mushrooms and that cheezzzzzz…

But the taste was all worth it. I’m thinking with all the things planned and events coming up, my carb cravings are only going to get stronger…and I think more pizza places are going to be crossed off my list in the process 😉

What do you crave the most when you are super busy and get super hungry?

The Pizza Studio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hot Weather Shenanigans

Hot Weather Shenanigans

The day after my first double run, I granted myself a rest day and enjoyed the extra hour or so in bed resting my sore head (later on in the week, I had my first migraine, and I’m thinking the trigger might have been the extreme weather change). Surprisingly, my leg muscles felt fine (probably due to the rolling I did!), but my head felt heavy, which I’m assuming was due to spending so much time exerting myself in he heat.

Needless to say, the rest day was absolutely necessary. I went into lab later in the morning, but since E was also in, we decided to head downtown together for some lunch. It was unbearably hot outside though, and the walk from 7th st. all the way to Grand Central Market had us feeling like we were melting. I was even in a tank top and shorts and felt like I was burning!

It was my first time visiting GCM (and I call myself an Angeleno!), and seeing all the foodie shops clustered in one place like that reminded me of a more crowded, packed version of the Tustin Marketplace. We first thought about checking out Eggslut, but the line was so serpentine that we thought it’d be best to try it out some other day. Instead, we opted for meals at two different stalls.

berlin--currywurst
Berlin Currywurst at Grand Central Market

I found my meal of choice at Berlin Currywurst. The last time I had a vegetarian currywurst was ages ago, so I was happy to be able to have it again.

Berlin
Small space, crowded counter.

My options were limited, but I was able to get a medium spicy tofu kielbasa currywurst plate. It even came with half of a crusty bread roll to mop any of that excess thick tomato-based sauce!

berlincurrywurst
Spent a hot Sunday trying to keep cool at Grand Central Market. It was my first time visiting the place too! Eggslut had a serpentine line, so I hopped on over to Berlin Currywurst, and chowed down on this spicy Tofu Kielbasa Currywurst with a hearty chunk of bread 😋😋

E found a stall selling avocado toast that came out with such beautiful presentation. My side beet salad was nothing in comparison. I’m not even sure why I got it…I had assumed it was part of the meal but then I realized I had to pay extra for it 😛

food
Why did I get this excuse for a salad?

After lunch, I hurried on home to catch up on sleep and just chill. I also tried another flavor of D’s Naturals Fluffbutter—Brownie Batter! Now I only have one more new-to-me flavor left to try…

fluffbutter
Brownie Batter? This flavor from @dsnaturals is more like Brownie BUTTER. The texture was smooth, yet each spoonful was dense. There was a strong cocoa taste that was the defining feature of this flavor. My only complaint—with all of the D’s Naturals Fluffbutters actually—is the oil separation. It’s always so difficult to make the oil mix through evenly, even though I attempt to do so with each jar. The last couple tablespoons at the bottom of each jar are always the driest as a result.

Overall, I thought it had a very sharp cocoa taste, and quite a thick texture. I still have issues with mixing up all the oil thoroughly in the jar—it just has a tendency to pool up on top!

I also managed to order four new The Lion’s Pack cookie dough flavors to try during the week. My favorite of the four I purchased was this “Teddy Dough”.

"Why HELLO there TEDDY DOUGH 🐻 🐻 🍪 🍪!! It's been a while since I placed a @thelionschoice cookie dough order---long enough to get a four pack of flavors I haven't tried yet! Teddy Dough is one of them, and I actually kinda love the more grainy texture this one has in comparison to the stickier consistency the other ones have. But I was expecting some broken teddy grahams to be mixed in...guess they just ground them down 🐻 😧"
Why HELLO there TEDDY DOUGH 🐻 🐻 🍪 🍪!! It’s been a while since I placed a @thelionschoice cookie dough order—long enough to get a four pack of flavors I haven’t tried yet! Teddy Dough is one of them, and I actually kinda love the more grainy texture this one has in comparison to the stickier consistency the other ones have. But I was expecting some broken teddy grahams to be mixed in…guess they just ground them down 🐻 😧

I thought this cookie dough would have crushed teddy graham cookies, but I think they were all finely-ground because the texture of the cookie dough was so smooth. It was like a crumbly sunflower butter jar with a mild cinnamon flavor. I could even detect a taste of honey.

The one I was most surprised by was Red Velvet. I had much higher expectations for this one, but the jar I got had dough that was too sticky, and with a texture that was reminiscent more of cake than cookie dough.

redvelvet
I have to be honest—wasn’t a huge fan of @thelionschoice Red Velvet Cake cookie dough. My batch at least had the consistency of a gooey sponge cake, rather than a thick, paste-like cookie dough which I was expecting. The flavor was quite bland, and the chocolate bits did little to help enhance the flavor profile. Ah well, I have to admit I can’t complain about the quantity I got—my jar was literally full to the brim!

Butterscotch Maple Cookie didn’t come across as a flavor worth remembering. Sure, there were a decent amount of butterscotch chips thrown in, but the flavor base was quite bland.

butter
Butterscotch Maple Cookie: not sure what’s so “cookie” about it!

Finally, there was Cran-Orange. The mix-ins definitely overpowered the cookie dough base with this flavor, and it was definitely the frutiest of the bunch. It even had some white chocolate pieces thrown in so that was a plus!

cranorange
Honestly, this flavor (and its colors) reminded me of Fall…

Has the weather drastically changed where you live?

Do you get migraines?

Berlin Currywurst Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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